The Sonic Chair isn't a new concept, it's been offering the public auditory pleasure in museums and libraries world wide since 2007. It's even won the coveted red dot design award. At this year's IFA the new improved SC02 was unveiled featuring iPad integration and an enhanced amplifier system. The good news, it's finally available to Joe and Jane Public for a mere 8,999 euros. That's without the fancy extras.
We settled into the Sonic Chair and can report that the sound quality is fantastic. Imagine you're tiny enough to nestle into one of the padded cups of your favorite pair of headphones. Feel the beat reverberate through your body. That vibration is thanks to iBeam, a structure borne sound converter on the chassis that produces vibrations you'd usually equate with an early Pixies concert.
Jan Stuhn, in charge of project development and sales explains the "Heart of the chair is a sound system consisting of a three way speaker system, each with its own Class D state of the art amplifier." Each of these is controlled by DSP (digital signal processing). "The lower frequencies are emitted over the ground directly into your body and we frame this by implementing the iBeam," Stuhn says.
How it worksIt's easy to shut the world out when you're literally cocooned in sound. The Sonic Chair is made in Germany from laminated sheets of wood to stabilize an arched enclosure with a volume of 35 liters.
The company explains: "We have developed a special structure-borne sound membrane comparable to a large loudspeaker measuring a meter in diameter. The membrane is perforated, which means it does not emit any audible sound waves but rather vibrations at extremely low frequencies."
So if you're playing a fast-paced action game and someone stabs you in the back, you're going to feel it.
- a circular acoustic enclosure with 32 litre volume
- equipped with Scandinavian-made loudspeakers featuring separate tweeters and midrange drivers as well as a centre subwoofer
- support of the low frequency range from 16 to 40 Hz through silent physical vibration specially developed six-channel amplifier in patented class-D technology with integrated digital signal processor (DSP) to allow separate regulation of both high and midrange speakers, the subwoofer and the body-focused sound membrane
The designerGizmag spoke to Holger Fritzlar, one of the two designers responsible for the Sonic Chair (the other is Michael Kientzler). When Fritzlar starts describing how he came up with the concept I picture a round, wooden swing with someone petite perched in it, head turned to the side, listening intently. What else are you going to come up with when someone tells you they wanted to create a ring to sit in with an (mild expletive and brand name removed) entry level audio kit inside.
The next step was to improve the sound incrementally. "The design follows the function," Fritzlar says. "All the design followed the search for good sound, we looked for the details that would enhance this." It clearly worked as the product design won a coveted red dot design award.
VerdictThe Sonic Chair is possibly a little light on inputs with one RCA stereo input in the base and a stereo jack inside the control panel. The docking station has its own input and there is wireless capability up to 400 m. New features include the DSP control, the enhanced amplifier system and ipad integration in a "thin, nicely designed, theft proof ipad chassis".
We love the Sonic Chair and we quite like the fact the company bothered to get a real musician (Benjamin Attiche) so we could get the full live experience. It's been stress tested in mass public domains so you can be fairly sure you're getting quality for your hard earned cash. "Every part is easy to replace so long as a person doesn't have two left hands, Stuhn adds." In other words, your pet labradoodle could do it.